Malaysian comedian-turned-actor Zizan Razak scales to new heights.
When I arrived at the hotel suite where Zizan Razak was scheduled to meet the press to promote his latest film Cicakman 3 – which is currently showing in cinemas nationwide – the actor was in the midst of answering a question about fame.
Specifically, on how he planned to sustain his career as a comedian in the local entertainment scene. It seemed like a grim question for Zizan who is currently one of the most sought-after entertainers in the country.
Since coming in second place in Astro’s comic talent search show Raja Lawak in 2007, Zizan has gone to star in box office hits such as KL Gangster, KL Zombi and Abang Long Fadhil.
He also scored several lucrative hosting gigs for TV shows like Melodi and Akademi Fantasia as well as live events like Anugerah Industri Muzik. When he’s not acting or hosting, Zizan can be heard on the airwaves with pop-rap singles such as Bawaku Pergi, Infiniti Cinta and Cobaan.
For the Cicakman 3 press meet in Kuala Lumpur, he looked dapper in a two-piece Fairuz Ramdan suit paired with a striking red tie and spiffy suede shoes.
One thing’s for sure, Zizan was dressed to look like someone who is at the peak of fame.
But the comedian will be the first to tell you that he doesn’t feel like he has made it.
“I still think that I need to keep on doing things or else I’d risk feeling too comfortable for my own good. I have not made it yet,” said Zizan, 30.
When we finally sit down for our one-on-one interview, Zizan opted for a more relaxed look. He ditched the suit for a polo T-shirt and the suede shoes have been replaced with a pair of black Nikes.
Zizan on his Akademi Fantasia rejection
Over a decade ago, Zizan auditioned to be in the singing talent competition Akademi Fantasia.
“I went for the audition in Kuala Terengganu. I made it through several stages. Finally, they gave me a piece of paper and asked me to wait for the producers to call.”
Zizan said he was hopeful for a call back. Three months later, he saw an episode of Akademi Fantasia on television and realised that he was never going to be on the show.
“Actually, my plan was to audition and meet a few friends to form a group like KRU. Except, we’d have more members and call ourselves FRU (Federal Reserve Unit),” Zizan deadpanned, perhaps hinting that he has gotten over the disappointment.
It seemed that Zizan was made for show business. As a kid growing up in Dungun, Terengganu, Zizan recalls being the host for school events.
“Culture night, prize-giving ceremony, you name it and I’ll be the one hosting it,” said the former student of Chung Hwa Wei Sin Chinese school in Kuala Terengganu.
He revealed his other talent: Climbing trees. “I was the one my parents and friends depended on when they need to get a cat from a tree. Or pluck coconuts,” Zizan said, adding that he thinks his tree-climbing talent gave him the physical edge he needed to pull off a role like Cicakman – a superhero with lizard-like abilities.
After completing secondary school, Zizan enrolled into a culinary arts course. He explained that it was a decision influenced by his then-girlfriend.
His first job was working in a hotel kitchen where he earned RM600 a month. But it was not his calling.
Zizan was restless and felt that he was meant to do so much more. He enrolled in a theatre workshop for some exposure in performing arts. After the failed Akademi Fantasia audition, his focus shifted towards the thriving oil and gas industry in Dungun.
“I was in the midst of signing up for an engineering course when I received a phone call from Astro. They said I was not meant for Akademi Fantasia and told me to audition for Raja Lawak instead.”
With his mother’s blessing and a RM300 loan, he bought an airplane ticket to Kuala Lumpur. It was his first time flying.
“I remember the stewardess asking me if everything was OK, and I asked her if I can try to fly the plane instead.”
Zizan, the Raja Lawak
Zizan was not prepared for turbulence during his stint on Raja Lawak. Contestants on the first season of Raja Lawak in 2007 were critiqued by veteran comedians like Datuk Jamali Shadat, Sabri Yunus and Jalil Hamid.
According to Zizan, the critics were not impressed with his earlier material. This led him to believe that the audience was not ready for his style of self-deprecating humour.
“I assumed that if the judges didn’t like my material, then the audience must have hated it too. I was really demotivated.”
Then one night, while dining at the mamak, something changed his outlook. He watched an episode of Raja Lawak on television and saw the results of votes from home viewers. To Zizan’s surprise, he was in the lead. He cried.
That moment was enough to convince Zizan to work harder for the viewers who voted for him. Eventually, he won second place.
Zizan who is a self-professed “anak manja (pampered child)” credited his mother Anai Ibrahim for motivating him.
“She said just because I didn’t win (on the show), does not mean it’s the end of the road. She was right. After Raja Lawak concluded, I was one of the first few to get job offers from Astro.”
Most would probably have doubts about comedy as a career in entertainment. Zizan is not one of them.
He cited legendary actor Tan Sri P. Ramlee and former Cicakman actor Saiful “Apek” Nizam as prime examples of those who found success in the entertainment industry through comedy.
Unfortunately, fame has its drawbacks, of course.
Since being involved in the entertainment industry, Zizan has been embroiled in a number of controversies.
Last year, he faced a lawsuit filed by former manager Marina Juki for breach of contract. Most recently, actress Emma Maembong confirmed that she has ended her two-year relationship with Zizan. It was rumoured that the breakup was attributed to Zizan’s close relationship with another woman.
(Update: Zizan was involved in a car accident last night/March 18. He was not hurt.)
Zizan said he can’t tell himself to believe that fame is difficult.
“We live in a world where everyone consumes information through social media, so they get all kinds of stories. I choose to look at it positively. I believe for every hater, there are people who love you as well.”
The jovial actor said he will always strive to answer persistent rumours.
“I won’t be quiet. For example, there was the 'tight pants' issue last year. People asked, ‘Kenapa seluar ketat (Why are your pants too tight)?’ Instead of just brushing off the comments, I asked the designer to help provide me with answers for these critics.”
The only thing that Zizan finds baffling is his fortunate journey in the industry so far.
“Whenever I am given a great opportunity, like flying to Japan to host a travel show, I will ask myself in the mirror ‘Is this really happening?’.”
Even with so much on his plate, Zizan found time to take on the lead role in the third instalment of director Yusry Abdul Halim’s Cicakman film. Zizan has always been a fan of the franchise so much so that when he was offered the role in Cicakman 3, he agreed to it immediately.
“I heard the initial plan was to take me to do wardrobe. Therefore, I was really fortunate when they changed their mind and cast me as the lead instead.”
With more high-profile films in the works including Polis Evo with Shaheizy Sam and a sequel to box-office hit Abang Long Fadhil, Zizan’s style of humour is serious business.
“This is my time now. I just have to keep telling myself to not forget where I came from.”